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Brushing Up: Is Your Clarisonic Making You Break Out?

You've heard great things about the Clarisonic cleansing system, so you got one. And now after you've been using it a while, you've started to break out. What???
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Clarisonic Mia2

At a recent press preview, a small group of us -- Michelle Villett of, Jill Dunn, from The Marilyn Dennis Show, another industry friend and I got into a discussion about Clarisonic cleansing. Our industry friend mentioned that since she'd started using hers, her skin had started to experience breakouts.

What? That didn't sound right to us. The Clarisonic buffs the surface of the skin (and lips, too) -- it helps to prevent breakouts because it lightly brushes away pore-cloggy dead cells. But, Jill reminded us, the Clarisonic is designed to be gentle enough that most people can use it daily -- it has some exfoliating benefits, but it's not an exfoliation tool.

A closer look at our friend's skin and a key question later, and we'd solved the problem. Our friend has oily/combination skin. Before she'd begun using a Clarisonic, her skincare routine had included a separate scrubby+chemical exfoliant. Not wanting to be harsh with her skin, she'd stopped using it when she turned to the cleansing brush.

Eureka. Some skin simply needs more exfoliating assistance than a Clarisonic brush can provide. Some skin just needs... more. For instance, my skin thrived all through my 30s when I used an 8% glycolic acid toner twice per day, plus a mild powder exfoliating every morning. That's far too much for most complexions, but for mine it was necessary. (The Clarisonic hadn't been invented yet.)

So if you've been using a Clarisonic as a replacement for a separate facial exfoliant, and have been suffering more breakouts than before, you likely just need to put that focussed desquamation step back in your routine. Try using your go-to skin smoother a couple of times a week at first to see if that helps. (It's exactly the advice our friend needed -- she's using her exfoliant again as a separate step, and her skin's cleared up nicely.)

Or try a daily cleanser containing lactic or glycolic or salicylic acid -- one of these would be ideal -- with your Clarisonic.

But note: not everyone needs an exfoliating cleanser with a Clarisonic; for some the brush is enough. And some people have skin so sensitive that daily Clarisonic use is too much. Your skin will tell you; listen carefully.

Clarisonic Mia2 + travel case, $175 at